About Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is one of the world’s natural wonders and is the most beautiful tourist destination of Vietnam. Ha Long Bay features more than one thousand awesome limestone karsts and islands of various sizes and shapes along the 120-km coastline of Bai Chay Beach.
Its waters are host to a great ersity of ecosystems including offshore coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forests, small freshwater lakes, and sandy beaches. The folk tale has it that the dragons descended from heaven to help locals by spitting jewels and jade to the sea, forming a natural fortress against invaders; these precious stones are represented by the lush green outcrops. Several islands boast beautiful grottos and caves with contiguous chambers, hden ponds and peculiar stone formations. The bay is about 170 kilometers northeast of Hanoi and 3,5 hours by road.
|Ha Long Bay
New 7 Wonders of Nature *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
|Inscription||1994 (18th Session)|
Location of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
Ha Long Bay (Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long, literally: “descending dragon bay”) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and part of Van Dondistrict. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical,geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.
Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem.Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000–7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 7000–5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago. Hạ Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mout, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy.
500 years ago, Nguyen Trai praised the beauty of Hạ Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it “rock wonder in the sky”. In 1962, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam listed Hạ Long Bay in the National Relics and Landscapes publication. In 1994, the core zone of Hạ Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criterion vii, and listed for a second time according to criterion viii.
Soi Nhụ culture (16,000- 5000 BC)
Located in Hạ Long and Bái Tử Long are archaeological sites such as Mê Cung and Thiên Long. There are remains from mounds of mountain shellfish (Cyclophorus), spring shellfish (Melania), some fresh water mollusc and some rudimentary labour tools. The main way of life of Soi Nhụ’s inhabitants included catching fish and shellfish, collecting fruits and digging for bulbs and roots. Their living environment was a coastal area unlike other Vietnamese cultures, for example, like those found in Hoà Bình and Bắc Sơn.
Cái Bèo culture (5000- 3000 BC)
Located in Hạ Long and Cát Bà island, its inhabitants developed to the level of sea exploitation.
History shows that Hạ Long Bay was the setting for local naval battles against Vietnam’s coastal neighbors. On three occasions, in the labyrinth of channels in Bach Dang river near the islands, the Vietnamese army stopped the Chinese from landing. In 1288, General Tran Hung Dao stopped Mongol ships from sailing up the nearby Bach Dang River by placing steel-tipped wooden stakes at high tide, sinking the Mongol Kublai Khan’s fleet.
During the Vietnam War, many of the channels between the islands were heavily mined by the United States navy, some of which pose a threat to shipping to this day.
The name Hạ Long is derived from the Sino-Vietnamese, meaning “descending dragon”.
According to local legend, when Vietnamese had just started to develop into a country, they had to fight against invaders. To assist Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. Under magics, numerous rock mountains abruptly appeared on the sea, ahead of invaders’ ships; the forward ships struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the Earth, and then decided to live in this bay. The place where the mother dragon descended was named Hạ Long, the place where the dragon’s children attended upon their mother was called Bái Tử Long island (Bái: attend upon, Tử: children, Long: dragon), and the place where the dragon’s children wriggled their tails violently was called Bạch Long Vỹ island (Bạch: white-color of the foam made when Dragon’s children wriggled, Long: dragon, Vỹ: tail), present day Trà Cổ peninsula, Mong Cai.
Thien Cung grotto
Floating fishing village
The bay consists of a dense cluster of over 3,000 limestone monolithic islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hang Đầu Gỗ (Wooden stakes cave) is the largest grotto in the Hạ Long area. French tourists visited in the late 19th century, and named the cave Grotte des Merveilles. Its three large chambers contain large numerousstalactites and stalagmites (as well as 19th century French graffiti). There are two bigger islands, Tuần Châu and Cat Ba, that have permanent inhabitants, as well as tourist facilities including hotels and beaches. There are a number of beautiful beaches on the smaller islands.
A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng Thắng commune, Hạ Long city. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture (cultivating marine biota), plying the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Many of the islands have acquired their names as a result of interpretation of their unusual shapes. Such names include Voi Islet (elephant), Ga Choi Islet (fighting cock), and Mai Nha Islet (roof). 989 of the islands have been given names. Birds and animals including bantams, antelopes, monkeys, and lizards also live on some of the islands.
Almost all these islands are as individual towers in a classic fenglin landscape with heights from 50m to 100m, and height/width ratios of up to about six.
Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands. For example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst.
Geology and geomorphology
History of tectonics
The Kissing Rocks
Hạ Long Bay has experienced at least 500 million years in various geological states of orogeny, marine transgression and marine regression. During the Ordovician and Silurian periods (500-410 million years ago), Hạ Long Bay was deep sea. During the Carboniferous and Permian periods (340-250 million years ago), Hạ Long Bay was at shallow sea level.
Karst geomorphology value
Due to a simultaneous combination of ideal factors such as thick, pale, grey, and strong limestone layers, which are formed by fine-grained materials; hot and moist climate and slow tectonic process as a whole; Hạ Long Bay has had a complete karst evolution for 20 million years. There are many types of karst topography in the bay, such as karst field.
Timeline of geologic evolution
Some of the most remarkable geological events in Hạ Long Bay’s history have occurred in the last 1,000 years, include the advance of the sea, the raising of the bay area, strong erosion that has formed coral, and, pure blue and heavily salted water. This process of erosion by seawater has deeply engraved the stone, contributing to its fantastic beauty. Present-day Hạ Long Bay is the result of this long process of geological evolution that has been influenced by so many factors.
Due to all these factors, tourists visiting Hạ Long Bay are not only treated to one of the natural wonders of the world, but also to a precious geological museum that has been naturally preserved in the open air for the last 300 million years.
Map of islands in Halong Bay
Book your cheap flights to Vietnam and spend your getaway in this breathtaking place. This place offers plenty of beautiful destinations and fun activities for vacationers. Families and couples will both enjoy visiting this country. One of the most ideal destinations here in Vietnam is the famous heritage site, Halong Bay. This site is a great getaway spot for vacationers and travelers who want to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing time off.
Located in the Northern Vietnam province of Quang Ninh, Halong Bay covers an area of 1553 km² in the Gulf of Tonkin. Disseminated throughout the site are some 1969 islands, most of them uninhabited, making for a total land area of 562 km².
Two wide channels, in the East and in the West, up to 24 m deep, are usually seen as the bay’s gateways. The central part on the other hand is mostly shallow, depths averaging only 2 m.
UNESCO recognised Halong Bay as a World Heritage Site in 1994 and 2000. The total area since then protected spreads on 434 km² and includes 788 islets.
Halong Bay means the “bay of the descending Dragon”. Many legends surround the formation of Halong Bay, most involving the afore-mentioned mythical animal. The most widespread story tells how a dragon, sent by the Emperor of Jade to support the Viet people fighting against the foreign invaders, helped push away the attackers and in the process, spat jewels that landed in the sea and formed the karst landscape. The Dragon, followed by her children, then decided to settle there and descended to the bay. Mother Dragon made Ha Long Bay her home while her children settled in Bai Tu Long, their tails whipping on the beaches of Long Vi.
Being one of the great natural wonders of Asia, Halong Bay is the single most popular side trip from Hanoi. The beauty of the bay and its 3000 islands is so awesome that an excursion there should be considered an essential part of any visit to Northern Vietnam. A one or two day trip also makes a delightful and inexpensive romantic getaway if you meet someone special.
After five hours on a hellish road (which is slowly being repaved), you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular and memorable sightseeing of your trip. Hire a boat in Halong City or Hon Gai to take you as far from shore as possible, and simply meander among the islands, fjords and inlets. There is plenty to explore in the 4000 square kilometer body of water, and it is easy to find peaceful places to swim, fish, or just relax without seeing another soul, yet surrounded by majestic scenery.
Despite what geologists may claim, the bay was actually created when an immense dragon plunged to Earth here before recorded history. Its mighty tail carved the great stone seabed violently before the creature flew away to the place where legends are born. This fable does not seem so far fetched as you sail among thousands of limestone outcroppings, which look like so many blades thrust deep into the mist from below the sea. Many are barren, weathered and rocky. Others are cloaked in vegetation so dense that it is impossible to see the stone beneath. At dusk, they all take on mysterious shades of gray, mauve and olive.
Several of the larger islands have extensive caves, which are open to visitors for about a dollar. Although they are poorly lit and have slippery pathways, they offer a little adventure to liven up a long, lazy day of boating.
The water is warm, clean and clear, so swimming is always a pleasure here. Be prepared with swimwear and a towel.
Hạ Long Bay in the fog, Việt Nam
It was terribly foggy the entire time I was in Ha Long Bay— a major bummer. Try and go when the sun shines, it’s the difference between a diamond in the rough and a 10-carat Tiffany.
HALONG BAY CRUISES